Imagine waking up to the telltale signs of a cold: a drippy nose, sore throat, and persistent sneezes. Instead of scheduling an appointment, driving, and spending a large portion of your day in the doctor’s office, you can save a trip with a virtual appointment.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth dates back to the 1960s, but thanks to modern technology, it’s more widespread and readily available today. Telehealth is the use of communication devices such as computers and smartphones to offer remote services and help patients manage their health care online. It ranges from sending still images, videoconferencing, patient portals, monitoring vital signs remotely and a variety of other applications. Although it’s not available for all issues, it’s an easy and straightforward alternative for common illnesses such as colds and birth control prescriptions.
Telehealth offers a wealth of benefits for both patients and doctors. It can improve clinical workflow and save medical practitioners’ time. Most importantly, it helps people all over the world get the medical care they need. Patients’ health shouldn’t suffer because of their geographical location.
One of the primary goals of telehealth is to make healthcare more accessible for people living in rural neighborhoods or isolated communities. Remote clinic services reduces driving time for patients, makes health care more accessible for people living in areas with few specialists, and promotes a patient-first approach. It’s also a great option for people with limited mobility and restricted scheduling and transportation options. Essentially, it brings the doctor to the patient via audio and video technology
Telehealth is especially useful in fields like psychiatry and psychology where medical practitioners are few and spread out. Census numbers estimate there’s one licensed psychiatrist for every 30,000 people, so people living in remote areas struggle with finding mental health providers. Psychiatry and psychology are innately conducive to online platforms because patients can receive a thorough consultation through video chat interaction. In fact, the American Psychological Association states video visits increased five times the rate from 2000 to 2008.
Also, telehealth services have been steadily offered in more hospitals. According to the American Hospital Association, by 2017, 76 percent of American hospitals partially or fully used a computerized telehealth system to connect patients with medical practitioners.
How does it work?
All you need is an internet connection and a few minutes. Some services require a video chat with a certified medical practitioner, while other services require patients to complete brief online health questionnaires. Most telehealth services charge a small fee, but the amount is often less than a traditional copay paid at a provider’s office.
Once you’re logged into the platform, a doctor or nurse practitioner guides you through a set of questions. The medical practitioner can suggest home care methods and offer extra medical care. You can even get prescription online if you qualify and depending on your state’s telehealth prescription laws.
You might wonder how an online doctor can help you monitor your health. Various tools exists that give medical practitioners the ability to check your health from afar. Some of this technology includes:
- Devices that can measure and wirelessly send information such as blood pressure and heart rate.
- Home monitoring devices for elderly patients or people with dementia that monitors changes in normal activities such as mobility accidents.
- Mobile apps where patients can upload their information such as blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
Telehealth is an incredible innovation that promotes health for people all over the globe. Instead of spending precious time and gas traveling to the doctor, meet the doctor online in real-time, thanks to virtual appointments.